By Roger Tagholm:
The London Book Fair notches up a little first this week as it brings some of the style and glamor of one of the West End’s most literary of restaurants to the rather more pedestrian surroundings of the International Rights Centre at Earls Court.
Nestling on the edge of Covent Garden, and opposite where London’s longest-running show, The Mousetrap, is playing, The Ivy has a show business and literary history that stretches back to the Thirties. It takes its name from a popular song of the time, which included the line “We will cling together like the ivy.” Noël Coward used to hold court here after his openings; Ray Bradbury celebrated his 70th birthday here; Arthur Miller his 80th; Cape publisher Tom Maschler’s retirement party was held here; and in 2010, Sir Ronald Harwood, the Ocar-nominated screen writer of films such as The Pianist, wrote a play called Heavenly Ivy that was performed for a week in the restaurant itself. How many restaurants can you say that about?
Add to this, countless publishing launches and parties and a dining room that might see Hollywood A-listers Nicole Kidman or Brad Pitt on one side, agent Ed Victor on another, Stephen Fry mid-anecdote, Barry Manilow just coming in, and the late film director Michael Winner taking his seat and you have an idea why there is often a cluster of paparazzi waiting outside. It’s that kind of place.
Now, a little flavor of all this arrives at the LBF where the IRC becomes home to the first ever pop up version of The Club at Ivy. The latter is the restaurant’s adjacent private members’ club, opened in 2008, whose members include agent Luigi Bonomi, publishers Louise Moore (Penguin UK) and Ian Chapman (Simon & Schuster UK), and writers William Boyd, Edna O’Brien, Joanna Trollope, Antonia Fraser and Philip Kerr, as well as numerous musicians, actors and folk from the creative industries.
The LBF’s “Club at the Ivy” will offer a champagne bar and seating area, waitress and concierge service, daily continental breakfast, tea and cocktails snacks, and the Ivy’s florist service. The Ivy’s Director, Fernando Peire, says: “I think it’s fair to say I was lobbied by various members who were keen for The Club to have a presence at the Fair. But I was enamored with the idea of teaming up with The London Book Fair, not only because we have a wonderful collection of books at The Club, but also because The Ivy, and latterly The Club, have been a meeting place for authors, publishers and agents since 1917.
“I like to think we inhabit a kind of smart Bohemia at The Club. With a membership such as ours there is much fun to be had around the piano late at night. We’re proud of our literary heritage, and proud to be at the London Book Fair.”
Among those doing the lobbying was Bonomi, who comments: “As a Founder Member of the Ivy Club, it seemed completely natural to me that it should have its own exclusive corner within the London Book Fair — a place to meet and negotiate and gossip and celebrate our industry in a haven of luxury.”
Meanwhile, Victor — who might well be seen celebrating a deal or two in this unusual corner of the LRC this week — offers this anecdote from The Ivy’s past. “I remember being there with Matthew Evans [former Faber Chief Executive] and he was wondering whether to apply for membership of the Garrick. I said to him, ‘Matthew, why would you want to do that? This is your club.’ And of course, in the old days, if a proprietor told you he was taking you for lunch at The Ivy, it only meant one thing — you were going to be fired.”